A Walk Around Syston in the 1950s with Peter Cadman, Looking at the Shops and Businesses

A back in time tour around Syston in the 1950s

As regular readers of Syston Town News may recall, members of Syston History Society are currently writing a book on ‘Syston in the 20th Century.’ We hope that the book will be in print by this autumn. The following article by Peter Cadman will take readers on ‘virtual tour’ of Syston’s shops in the 1950s, when Peter’s father was the manager of a grocery shop called ‘Burton’s’. The shop was in the building that is now occupied by Josiah Hincks Solicitors on Melton Road, near Costa Coffee.

We’ll start at what was then called ‘the top o’ the town’ where High Street and Barkby Road met the main road to Melton and Leicester. The war memorial was right in the centre of this junction.

Going down High Street from the War Memorial, Barclays Bank was on the corner on your left. Next door to this was Startin’s shoe shop, then Sketchleys the cleaners, then Worthington’s Grocery store. After this was the Infants’ School, Walkers’ wood yard, and an off-license. After crossing over School Street you came to Sheffield’s Butchers, then a row of terraced houses and Mrs. Holmes’ haberdashery shop. Cross over Chapel Street and you came to the premises of Gamble’s the Undertakers, followed by the Conservative Club, Dodwell’s chip shop, a grocery shop (run by Arthur and Betty Smith) then another row of terraced houses. Finally you would find yourself at Pearson’s bike shop, which you could get your catapult elastic from, plus explosive caps for your gun when playing Cowboys and Indians. Much further down there was another grocery shop.

Going down the right hand side of High Street from the War Memorial there was the Fox and Hounds pub on the corner, then a small shop and then Jellis’s Draper’s shop which sold haberdashery, dress patterns, ladies’ lingerie and knitting wool among other things. This was run in the fifties by the two middle-aged Misses Jellis. Next door was the Post Office then run by Mr. Johnson and next to this was Marjorie’s Ladies’ Hairdresser, run by Marjorie Clowes. After this came the Gas Board Showroom, then the Methodist Chapel, (Mr. Franks was a lay preacher) and Sturmer’s Plumbing on the corner. After crossing over Upper Church Street you passed by the large Victorian Vicarage, then the Co-operative Grocery store. After this came the Bull’s Head pub, then more terraced houses until you came to the Green. Here were to be found various businesses; Fred Toon (Painters and decorators) and Borderick’s Fruiterer’s and Greengrocer’s, (run by David Borderick and his wife). Further round the Green was Goodall’s Quality Stores and Barnacle’s shop. Turning the corner onto High Street once more there were more houses, — and passing by a mixture of terraced properties, thatched cottages and one or two attractive larger houses you soon arrived at the Queen Victoria Public House. Now turn round and go back to the centre of Syston with me, to where the war memorial stands in the middle of the road.

Proceeding along Melton Road towards Leicester and the Railway Station, immediately on your left was the Bakers’ Arms Pub, then Joseph Burton’s Grocery shop, (where my Dad was manager). Next door to this you would pass Jones’ Garage (ex Sheffield’s) selling motorbikes, then the old Fire Station and Parker’s shoe repairs. Walking by some terraced houses you would pass Matthew’s Café, Fred Wilkinson’s Hardware Store, the Primitive Methodist Chapel, four terraced houses and Banks’ Farm. Crossing over the Brook Bridge, you would come to Souter’s Plumbers and Glaziers premises, then the Egg Marketing Board depot, the Adult School and the Dance Hall. After a short gap, you’d find yourself outside the Syston Cinema, the Royal British Legion meeting rooms and then an engineering company.

Going down the other side of Melton Road from the central cross roads you would pass Barclay’s Bank, Greasley’s cake shop, Rally’s greengrocers’, De La Rue watches, Dyer’s chip shop, Peberday’s newsagents and lending library, a grocery shop and F. W. Sharpe which sold bicycles and electrical goods. Next came Herbert’s stonemasons’ workshop where you could see work in progress, then the Blue Bell Pub, some terraced houses and then the Brook Bridge.

From the Brook Bridge you now came to Castle’s electrical shop, a few other shops I can’t quite recall, then Newcomb’s sweet shop, (easy for a boy to remember!) then the Wallpaper shop, next door to Baxter’s the butchers. Now we come to W. O. Goadby Newsagent’s, then Reg Talton’s the barber’s. (I remember that Reg seemed to be able to cut hair successfully with a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth!) If young boys were a little restless when having their hair cut they were put on a box on the barber’s chair and shown a large framed picture of two shire horses ploughing and asked to describe what they could see to keep them occupied. While they were doing this Reg would quickly cut their hair. After the barber’s was Hill’s Men’s Outfitters, some terraced houses, then the entrance to Central Park, then some engineering works.

Now we’ll start back at the War Memorial and see what there was when looking towards Melton. On the left was McLaren Todd the Chemist’s shop, then the Westminster Bank. Next door to this was Jackson’s sweet shop, then the Gables’ Health Centre where Mrs. Pitcher the receptionist, (wearing a white cotton overall) used to shout your name out when the Doctor was ready to see you. After this came ‘The Chestnuts’, pictured left, which was a large private house where Miss Calnon, (Dr. Calnon’s daughter) lived. I went once on my Mother’s instruction to collect fallen apples, and I remember I had to wait in a rather fusty hallway (smelling of apples) which had a Candlestick type telephone; — the sort of old-fashioned telephone I’d never seen before and have never seen since!

After this were the premises of Frank W. Payne, Metalworkers and Blacksmiths, then two of the Payne brothers’ family homes. Next door was Mrs. Oswin’s Greengrocer’s, then a large three storey private house owned by Mrs. Osborne, then the other Doctor’s practice (Dr. Ward) and his residence. After this were two Police houses, the site of new fire station, Gandy’s farm, the Lodge and the seed-growing grounds.

Standing looking towards Melton on the other side of the road you came first to Rose Cottage, Mrs. Dalley’s home. (She was a Justice of the Peace). Then there were three terraced houses (now turned into shops) and then Warner and Wade Furniture shop. After this there were two more terraced houses, a large private house where the Director of Auster Aircraft lived, and then several semi-detached and detached houses. Then you came to Central Avenue, and the ‘Bottom shop’ ran by Captain Black, the Majors and George Crutchley. This was run as a general grocer’s and beer off-licence in our (then) village and much further down was another grocery shop.